The Indispensableness Of Systematic Theology To The Preacher -- By: Benjamin Warfield
CTSJ 13:2 (Fall 2008) p. 45
The Indispensableness Of Systematic Theology
To The Preacher
Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was the principal of Princeton Seminary from 1887 to his death February 2, 1921. Many scholars consider him the last of the great Princeton theologians, following Charles and A. A. Hodge. Warfield was born in Kentucky on November 5, 1851. His parents were William and Mary Cabell (Breckinridge) Warfield, originally from Virginia. His maternal grandfather was the Presbyterian preacher Robert Jefferson Breckinridge (1800-1871), the son of John Breckinridge, a former United States Senator and Attorney General. Warfield's uncle was John C. Breckinridge, the fourteenth Vice President of the United States, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.
Professor Flint, of Edinburgh, in closing his opening lecture to his class a few years ago, took occasion to warn his students of what he spoke of as an imminent danger. This was a growing tendency to “deem it of prime importance that they should enter upon their ministry accomplished preachers, and of only secondary importance that they should be scholars, thinkers, theologians.” “It is not so,” he is reported as saying, “that great or even good preachers are formed. They form themselves before they form their style of preaching. Substance with them precedes appearance, instead of appearance being a substitute for substance. They learn to know truth before they think of presenting it. . . . They acquire a solid basis for the manifestation of their love of souls through a loving, comprehensive, absorbing study of the truth which saves souls.”’2 In these winged words is outlined the case for the indispensableness of Systematic Theology for the preacher. It is summed up in that it is through the truth in the propositions that souls are saved, that it is accordingly the prime business of the preacher to present this truth to men, and that it is consequently his fundamental duty to become himself possessed of this truth that he may present it to men and so save their souls. It would not be easy to overstate, of course, the importance to a preacher of those gifts and graces which qualify him to present this truth to men in a winning way—of all, in a word, that goes to make him an “accomplished preacher.” But it is obviously even more important to him that he should have a clear apprehension and firm grasp of that truth which he is to commend to men by means of these gifts and graces. For this clear apprehension and firm grasp of the truth its systematic study would seem certainly to be indispensable. And Systematic Theology is nothing other than the saving truth of God presented in systematic form.
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